Palpation Based Therapies have much to do with getting at the source of a problem. “Palpation” is just the technical term for feeling with the hands in the clinical setting. Doctors are feeling for anomalies, that is inconsistencies and variations, in muscle, skin, and along nerve pathways that provide clues about the condition itself. Rarely do pains originate at the site of pain. This is especially the case for pain where injury is not involved. Even where injury is involved, muscle groups that compensate for the injury will require treatment. Palpation is key to determining which muscle groups are involved and to what extent.
Let’s illustrate the utility of palpation with the case where a female patient fractured her right baby toe and wore a protective boot for about five weeks. Palpation showed signs of tenderness all long the right leg up, side, and lower back. This showed the path of compensation from wearing the boot and limited mobility. By inference, such extensive pain shows the lack of proper blood flow and decreased ability for the blood to nourish that little bone down in her foot. If circulation decreases, then healing slows. Therefore, it is important to palpate for the extent to which the body is compensating for injury.
Besides moxa to warm the cold foot, treatment focused on releasing the tension in the lower back to ensure proper blood flow. The patient was also given herbs to boost circulation, one of them being Siberian ginseng which is documented to assist in bone mending.
By the seventh week she felt brave enough to shed the boot. She felt some discomfort at the end of the day, but it was explained that that was just fatigue from prior disuse. She continued weekly treatment through week nine when she felt completely normal. Through palpation-based treatments, moxa, and herbs, she was above to avoid a suggested procedure and orthotics.
The case of a toe fracture provides a conceptual template for understanding the broader application of palpation-based therapy. Even where there is a site-specific injury, the effects reach much wider due to the body’s need to compensate for the injury. Palpation allows for determining just how wide, so that the flow of blood is normal to allow for recovery.